Life in Lakeland

Lakeland, the largest city in Polk County, has kept its small-town personality over the years for all who call the city home.

As Lakeland grows, it continues to embrace and celebrate its own unique culture, entertainment and activities so individuals and families never run out of things to do. Conveniently nestled between Tampa and Orlando, Lakelanders can easily find many ways to celebrate the climate, culture and opportunities available in the local area and throughout Central Florida, with world-class shopping, major sports franchises and entertainment venues in Tampa and Orlando a quick drive away.

Parks and Recreation

Bok Tower Gardens is a national historic landmark with many hiking trails and showcasing 50 acres of gardens, and much more. Lake Mirror Park offers a historic promenade, amphitheater and pedestrian walkways, adjacent to the Hollis Garden – a formal garden with over 10,000 plants and flowers. Of course, there are many parks for families to enjoy in and around Lakeland. You can find one that is right for you and your family with the Parks Finder.

If your passion is visiting state parks, you are in luck! Colt Creek State Park is just 21 miles away, Lake Kissimmee State Park is 46 miles to the east, and Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park is only 37 miles away, just to name a few. These three state parks alone provide miles and miles of hiking and equestrian trails to explore.

Environmental Lands are not just environmentally friendly, they are excellent places to explore.  SUMICA (4,031 acres) and the Circle B Bar Reserve are two such areas for your enjoyment in Polk County as is Se7en Wetlands (1,600 acres), owned by the City of Lakeland.  These wonderful nature areas are home to marshes, pine flatwoods, swamps, uplands, and lakes. Enjoy hiking, picnicking, wildlife photography and more.

Many of Lakeland’s large, beautiful lakes offer walking and running paths, resulting in the city’s designation as a Walk Friendly Community. The League of American Bicyclists also recently designated Lakeland a Bicycle Friendly Community with a number or nearby trails, including Van Fleet Trail and Fort Fraser bike trails.

Music and Theater

Lakeland boasts a flourishing community theater; the historic Polk Theatre that shows first-run films and hosts local concerts, a professional dance troupe; the Silver Moon Drive-in Theater, one of the last-standing drive-in movie theaters; and The RP Funding Center which brings in big-name comedians and singers and Broadway touring productions. The Imperial Symphony Orchestra performs five impressive Mainstage shows, an elaborate Night at the Opera and several fun Pops by the Lake concerts throughout the year.

polk theatre interior

Art and Museums

The Polk Museum of Art is a Smithsonian Affiliate accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. The Museum’s enduring mission is to enhance lives through inspirational and engaging art experiences for all. The not-for-profit art organization receives 140,000 visitors a year.

Florida Southern College is proud to house the largest single-site collection of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture in the world. Stop by the Sharp Family Tourism and Education Center on campus to see photographs, furniture and drawings of Wright’s relationship with FSC and to arrange a tour of the buildings.

Explorations V Children’s Museum in Downtown Lakeland beckons to young families looking for hands-on playtime and educational experiences.

The Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) is home to the Florida Air Museum with its tributes to the history and joy of flight. It also hosts the SUN ‘n FUN Fly-In every year.

The LB Brown House Museum located nearby in Bartow, Florida, was originally built in 1892 by former slave, L.B. Brown. The nine-room, 1,700 square foot Victorian L.B. Brown House is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

mayfaire lakeland

Festivals

Lakeland also hosts several of its own much-anticipated annual festivals, such as the SUN ‘n FUN Aerospace Expo – the second largest air show in the world! —Pigfest barbecue festival; Mayfaire By-The-Lake art show weekend, and the eagerly awaited Lakeland Christmas Parade, a Lakeland tradition each year. Our neighbor just to the west, Plant City, sponsors an elaborate 10-day Florida Strawberry Festival, featuring mouth-watering strawberry shortcake, Midway rides and hot national recording acts. The Florida State Fair attracts people from across the state each year at the fairgrounds in Tampa just 30 minutes away from Lakeland.

Sports and Athletics

Possibly best known as the spring training home of the Detroit Tigers, Lakeland is quite proud to foster the longest-lasting relationship between a Major League Baseball team and a current spring training host city.

The USA Water Ski and the Independent Softball Association make their headquarters in Lakeland.

If fishing is your sport, Central Florida will not disappoint. Try your hand at bass fishing on the inland waters, or take a short drive to experience salt-water fishing off the east or west coasts of the state.

For those who prefer to hit the fairways, Lakeland boasts 17 golf courses with even more nearby!

Of course, there is plenty of football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey to go around. The Lakeland Magic basketball team, the Florida Tropics soccer team play locally.  Competing in stadiums and arenas in Tampa, we have the Super Bowl LV Champions Tampa Bay Buccaneers; the 2020 ACLS winner Tampa Bay Rays; the 2020 Stanley Cup Champions Tampa Bay Lightning and to the east, enjoy professional basketball with the Orlando Magic.

Our youth sports offerings, from indoor basketball and gymnastic teams to state championship soccer teams and a highly regarded girls softball league, provide challenging athletic opportunities. Two YMCA facilities feature swimming pools, workout rooms, basketball courts, fitness classes and after-school and summer care.

Attractions

All of the following attractions reside within a 50-minute drive from Lakeland.

legoland

Legoland

Winter Haven, FL

busch gardens

Busch Gardens

Tampa, FL

islands of adventure

Adventure Island

Tampa, FL

universal studios

Universal Studios

Orlando, FL

disney world

Disney World

Orlando, FL

sea world

SeaWorld

Orlando, FL

Fun for Foodies

Lakeland has several mom-and-pop restaurants that are culinary traditions, so make sure you try the coconut cream pie at Reececliff Family Diner, a corned beef sandwich from Fat Jack’s Deli & Pub, a giant beef burrito from Tapatios or the dragon roll from Gosh! Asian Bistro & Sushi.

Independent fine-dining establishments that provide that special ambiance to a meal include the Terrace Grill, Nineteen61, and Texas Cattle Company. Independently owned coffee houses also dot the culinary landscape, from Black & Brew Coffee House & Bistro to Concord Coffee.

Wine and craft beer lovers can whet their palates at the likes of Red Door Wine Market and BrewHub. And if pastries are your thing, try Born and Bread Bakehouse for some high quality, delicious treats. Did we mention the Food Truck Rallies and Saturday-morning Downtown Farmers’ Markets, featuring locally grown produce and treats?  

What else does Lakeland offer?

Housing

Lakeland is home to just over 100,000 residents of varying ages, from college students and young singles to growing families and active retirees. The area has a wide spectrum of housing and accommodations, including waterfront property, historic homes, golf-course communities, modern condominiums and rental apartments.

Retail

Shopping local is easy in Lakeland, with all its wonderful antique shops, jewelry stores and clothing boutiques. Outdoor shopping venues, including the recently opened Lakeland Park Center and Lakeside Village offer local shopping enjoyment, with nearby options for shoppers, including International Plaza and Bay Street in Tampa and the Mall at Millenia in Orlando.

Industries

Lakeland has a rich past and present in citrus, but continues to rapidly attract highly skilled talent in a variety of thriving industries and is still growing its manufacturing base. Perfectly situated in the middle of the high-tech corridor known as Interstate 4, stretching from Orlando to Tampa, this hub attracts manufacturing, distribution, healthcare, aviation, automotive and retail services from throughout the world. Some of Lakeland’s major employers are GEICO, Amazon, Publix Super Markets Inc., and Lakeland Regional Health. Lakeland is also home to the ever-growing Lakeland Linder International Airport.

Faith

Lakeland has a robust faith community, offering a diverse array of houses of worship and events like National Day of Prayer gatherings and a well-attended Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast. Christian denominations include Southern Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Episcopal, Lutheran, Seventh-day Adventist, African Methodist Episcopal, as well as several non-denominational congregations. A handful of Catholic churches, private schools and organizations have a long, rich history in Lakeland. Worship centers also include synagogues, Hindu temples and a mosque. 

Education

Colleges and universities in Lakeland continue to expand and receive national accolades. Four-year degree colleges and universities include Polk State CollegeFlorida Polytechnic UniversitySoutheastern University and Florida Southern College.

Polk County Public Schools is the eighth largest district in Florida, with nearly 93,000 students enrolled. Our public school system includes magnet schools, charter schools, academies, career centers and prekindergarten sites. One such highly regarded magnet school is Harrison Center for the Visual and Performing Arts, which boasts success stories like Tony Award-winning actress Karen Olivo.  Polk County also has over 40 private school options for families.

Community Resources

Lakeland Area Chamber of Commerce, www.lakelandchamber.com
The Ledger, daily newspaper, www.theledger.com
Lakeland Economic Development Council, www.lakelandedc.com
City of Lakeland, www.lakelandgov.net
Downtown Lakeland Partnership, www.downtownlakelandfl.com
Polk County Public Schools, www.polk-fl.net
Visit Central Florida, www.visitcentralflorida.org

Swans

You won’t be in Lakeland too long before you notice its fascination with swans. Whether it is the real thing at Lake Morton – the 80+ descendant swans of the two swans given to Lakeland by Queen Elizabeth II or the many painted large swan sculptures around town, swans are a big deal in Lakeland.

We've Got Sunshine

with an average of

240

sunny days a year!

Come on In!
The Water is Fine.

Clearwater Beach – approx. 64 miles

St. Pete Beach – approx. 66 miles

Daytona Beach – approx. 111 miles

Cocoa Beach – approx. 105 miles